The President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, has said that the current dispute surrounding Silvio Berlusconi was seriously distracting from the important work of Italy's EU presidency.

The Italian Prime Minister sparked off the row, last Wednesday, after likening a German MEP to a Nazi concentration camp commandant in a film.

Mr Berlusconi later expressed regret for the comments and the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said he accepted the apology.

However, the controversy took another twist when Mr Berlusconi suggested yesterday that it was he - rather than Mr Schulz - that was owed the apology

Cox called for everyone to find the wisdom and serenity to resolve the issue and said that he will try to establish a clarification between Mr Berlusconi and the European Parliament to bring a sensible closure to the issue.